At Peech, we want to break down the taboos surrounding sex and sexuality, so in this series of articles we're discussing sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). We would like to emphasize how STDs do not make you gross or wrong or any other negative stereotype associated with STDs - it's merely infections, that in most cases can be treated easily and quickly. Give our articles about herpes, gonorrhea, genital warts and HIV/AIDS a read as well, and learn something new about STDs
Chlamydia is the most common STD in Denmark. Every year, more than 30,000 Danes are infected with chlamydia, and not even the covid restrictions slowed down the spread. This may be due to a special reason, which you can read more about in this article.
What is chlamydia?
Chlamydia is an infection caused by the bacteria Chlamydia Trachomatis. As with gonorrhea, the bacteria can only live in mucous membranes. This is the reason chlamydia is called a sexually transmitted infection, since it can only be transmitted through oral, anal or vaginal sex. The chlamydia bacteria cannot survive outside the body, so you cannot be infected by e.g. sharing a toilet or towel with a person who has chlamydia. This also means that the most effective way to avoid chlamydia is to have sex with a condom or dental dams.
What are the symptoms of chlamydia?
It is estimated that only about half of those infected with chlamydia develop symptoms. If you have previously had chlamydia, there is also a greater risk that you will not get symptoms if you are infected again. The fact that there are so many who do not get symptoms, and are therefore unaware that they are infected (unless they are tested), has helped to make chlamydia so widespread. Unprotected sex should not be shamed, but because you can have chlamydia without knowing it, it is always a good idea to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases regularly if you have unprotected sex with others. If you want to read more about how the test for chlamydia works, as well as your options when it comes to being tested by a doctor, voluntary clinics or at home, you can read our guide here.
If you get symptoms, they typically arise 1-3 weeks after you have been infected. At the same time, the incubation period for chlamydia is 3 weeks, which means that you can only detect and therefore test positive for chlamydia 3 weeks after you have been infected. If you think you have chlamydia, you therefore have to wait a little (and not have unprotected sex with others in the meantime), to make sure that a possible infection can be measured in a sample.
Chlamydia is typically associated with the classic symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases: "peeing shards of glass", i.e. that it stings when you urinate. For people with a vulva, the typical symptoms are also changes in discharge, spotting during sex and, in rare cases, pelvic inflammation. For people with a penis, the symptoms are discharge from the urethra and, in rare cases, inflammation of the epididymis. It is also possible to get chlamydia in the rectum or throat, which can cause pain and tenderness in both places.
If you want to read more about how to test for chlamydia, as well as where you can receive treatment, you can read our article here.
How is chlamydia treated?
After chlamydia has been confirmed with a test, it can easily be treated with antibiotics for 7 days. The infection is then gone after 7-10 days. To be on the safe side, it is therefore recommended to wait 14 days before having sex starting from the first day you take antibiotics.
In addition, it is important to inform your partner(s), so they can also be treated. Since there are so many who do not experience symptoms, and can therefore have and pass on chlamydia without realizing it, a rule of thumb is to contact the people you have had sex with in the last 6 months. It can feel like an uncomfortable conversation to initiate, especially if it's people you don't know very well. But you can remind yourself that for most people, chlamydia is not a serious infection, especially if it's treated in time. Some may think that it can be annoying getting tested and taking antibiotics, but that's about it - it's not the end of the world.
Since chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted disease, there is also a chance that the person you are informing have had it before. However, it's important to tell others if you have chlamydia, as untreated chlamydia can cause inflammation in the uterus or epididymis. Ultimately, inflammation can damage the ovaries, which can lead to sterility, i.e. a reduced ability to have children. So, get tested and tell your partner(s)!